The Best Action Movies on Netflix Right Now
Best Movies on Netflix by Genre:
Please note: This list pertains to U.S. Netflix subscribers. Some titles may not currently be available on international platforms. This article is frequently amended to remove films no longer on Netflix and to include more horror films that are now available on the service.
While Netflix now has the original Mortal Kombat movie in its lineup, that’s no reason to ignore one of the seminal ’80s action movies that helped inspire the whole MK franchise. Bloodsport showcases Jean Claude Van Damme at his best. The underground martial arts tournament plot is about as barebones as they come, but it’s just an excuse to watch a bunch of burly dudes from all over the globe come together to beat the living snot out of each other.
Too many Netflix Originals bank on big Hollywood names without actually giving us what we loved from those names on the big screen. Not so with Extraction, which features MCU players like Chris Hemsworth, Joe and Anthony Russo, and Sam Hargrave. Hargrave himself directs this lean, mean action thriller that casts Hemsworth as a tortured mercenary assigned the impossible task of rescuing a Bengali teen from a vengeful drug lord. The action is incredible, and the tension remains thick from start to finish.
Starship Troopers (1997)*
Despite being directed by RoboCop’s Paul Verhoeven, Starship Troopers was mostly dismissed as a brainless B-movie when it hit theaters back in 1997. Thankfully, time has been kind to this adaptation. In addition to delivering all the marine vs. alien carnage anyone could ask for, it serves as a satire of the modern military-industrial complex. There’s something going on beneath the dumb veneer. As with RoboCop, Starship Troopers is a sci-fi action flick that only seems to grow more relevant with age.
Pair the director of Speed with the creator of Jurassic Park and you have what may well be the best disaster movie of the ’90s. If you don’t already have a phobia of tornadoes, you definitely will after watching Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton hang on for dear life while the mother of all storms tries to drag them into oblivion. Twister‘s great special effects (that infamous cow scene notwithstanding) combine with a genuinely engaging story of an underdog team of storm chasers racing against the clock and their much better-funded rivals. It’s a great watch, but maybe not when there are storm clouds on the horizon.
Mortal Kombat (1995)
The ’90s were littered with cheap, badly executed adaptations of popular video game franchises. Mortal Kombat may well be the only one of the bunch still worth watching. No, it’s not exactly high art, but it strikes just the right balance of campy fun, devotion to the source material, bone-breaking action and catchy ’90s techno music. And for anyone who squandered most of their youth in the arcade, this is a surefire nostalgia trip.
With a new James Bond movie due for release in 2020, we imagine plenty of fans are planning a Bond binge over the next few months. Netflix is only home to the four Pierce Brosnan-led Bond movies, but the good news is that limited lineup includes 1995’s GoldenEye. This slick spy movie singlehandedly revitalized the franchise, cementing Brosnan as a worthy heir to the mantle and director Martin Campbell as one of the franchise’s best directors. You don’t get to the current Daniel Craig movies without GoldenEye lighting the way.
Patriot Games (1992)
Patriot Games is the second movie to feature Tom Clancy’s CIA hero Jack Ryan, and the first starring Harrison Ford. It remains among the best Clancy adaptations to date. Ford is still the best Jack Ryan, and the film soars as it delivers one great set piece after another and pits the hero against a radical Irish terrorist (Sean Bean). Clancy himself was none too fond of this adaptation, but audiences sure were.
The Grandmaster (2013)
While a great many martial arts movies have dramatized the life and exploits of Wing Chun founder Ip Man, none can match the explosive action and gorgeous cinematography of 2013’s The Grandmaster. But who would expect anything less with a director as acclaimed as Wong Kar-wai behind the camera? Kar-wai expertly distills a significant portion of Master Ip’s life into a tightly paced and beautiful martial arts drama. Superstars Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi only further add to the film’s star power. Our only complaint? We wish Netflix would make the superior international cut available to stream.
And if The Grandmaster leaves you hungry for more Wing Chun action, be sure to check out the Donnie Yen-starring Ip Man trilogy, also available on Netflix.
Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
Long ago, Jackie Chan proved what a winning combination kung fu and slapstick humor can be. Few modern martial arts movies honor that legacy as well as Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle. This comedic gangster movie is basically a live-action cartoon. It manages to parody countless classic movies even as it delivers some hard-hitting fight scenes. The fact that Kung Fu Hustle features so many beloved actors from ’70s kung fu cinema is just icing on the cake.
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
The sequel to Ant-Man is an inventive and lighthearted heist movie, in which The Wasp drags Ant-Man into an elaborate adventure involving a journey to the Quantum Realm, a building that gets stolen in the middle of a car chase, and lots of little, giant, clever action sequences. The Ant-Man movies are probably the most charming MCU movies, and the great ensemble cast and unique set pieces make Ant-Man and the Wasp stand out.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
The most epic live-action superhero crossover ever plays like a big budget, action-packed version of Robert Altman’s Nashville, complete with dozens and dozens of important characters, each of whom slip into each other’s stories on their own path to victory or tragedy. Avengers: Infinity War the kind of sprawling superhero movie that would never have been possible, or even comprehensible, for mainstream audiences to appreciate 10 years ago, and it represents a vast uncharted landscape of superhero cinema in the future. And it’s also thrilling, funny, captivating action filmmaking to boot!
The Indiana Jones Series
George Lucas and Steven Spielberg collaborated on the classic Indiana Jones movies, taking the cheesy action movie tropes of their childhoods and translating them to the big screen using every new, exciting, expensive technique at their disposal. The first film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, is about as good as action movies ever get, with lovable characters and dastardly villains all searching for the same magical treasure, getting into one giant and unforgettable set piece after another. The sequels are mixed, but mostly great: Temple of Doom resorts to insulting stereotypes but also features probably the most breathtaking action sequences in the franchise’s history; Last Crusade has iconic set pieces and the fantastic Sean Connery as Indie’s stuffy father, but the jokey tone robs the series of its gravitas; and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is pretty dumb from start to finish, but at least it’s never dull.
Imagine the plot of The Bourne Identity, but with the fight scenes from The Raid. That’s the underrated action thriller Headshot, which stars Iko Uwais as an amnesiac who has to protect himself, and his psychologist, from an army of martial arts assassins who want him dead. Headshot arguably works even better on streaming, because the action is so stunning, and so merciless, you might need to pause the film just to catch your breath.
Before he became the universally acclaimed director of films like My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away, Hayao Miyazaki directed The Castle of Cagliostro, a ripping adventure story about a charismatic thief named Lupin III who stumbles across a wild conspiracy involving counterfeit money and kidnapping. Miyazaki’s trademark vibrancy is already in full swing, and the movie still feels wondrous and timeless.
How We Choose the Best Action Movies on Netflix
Netflix has a pretty wide range of action movies, some of which could just as easily fall under the umbrella of science fiction or comedy. We’ve tried to narrow the list down to focus on influential classics like Goldeneye and the Indiana Jones series, along with big blockbusters that fare well on aggregate sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. We also try to reflect the wide range of subgenres, including popular superhero movies, bloody martial arts flicks and more adventure-oriented fare like The Castle of Cagliostro. Hopefully the list has something for action junkies of all tastes.